Mark Ronson was renovating his West Village townhouse final summer season when an pressing query arose: What kind of audio audio system ought to he — a Grammy and Oscar-winning songwriter and file producer — procure for his front room?
His inside designer, Michael Bargo, urged a bespoke line of modular sound methods that he had by no means heard of: Ojas. Mr. Bargo first noticed a pair of Ojas audio system a 12 months earlier, on the studio of the photographer Tyler Mitchell, and thought its Brutalist aesthetic and classic hi-fi elements suited Mr. Ronson’s personal postmodern throwback model.
Nonetheless, his consumer was skeptical. “I’m not a very snarky particular person or something, however I bear in mind pondering, ‘What does this man find out about sound?,’” Mr. Ronson stated.
To seek out out, Mr. Ronson paid a go to to the Brooklyn house of Devon Turnbull, 42, who began Ojas three years in the past as a distinct segment audiophile model that caters to designers and artists. Streetwear aficionados might bear in mind him as a founding father of the extremely influential model Nom de Guerre from the early 2000s.
Seated on a camel-colored classic recliner refurbished by the artist Tom Sachs (one other Ojas buyer), Mr. Ronson surveyed the highest flooring of Mr. Tunbull’s transformed brownstone within the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, cluttered with Technics turntable motors, triode amplifiers and bookshelves crammed with Japanese stereo magazines.
Quickly, the plucky guitar sounds of Kenny Burrell’s 1963 jazz observe, “Mule,” started to emanate from a four-foot-high subwoofer encased in a grey plywood field, and an identical pair of credenza-sized midrange audio system topped with an array of horn tweeters. The guitar strings had been rendered with such readability and dimension that it hit Mr. Ronson like a sensory epiphany — the eardrum equal of splashing your face in ice water.
“I used to be absolutely blown away,” Mr. Ronson stated. “I genuinely had a non secular expertise listening to music that day.”
On the spot, he commissioned Mr. Turnbull to make a pair of audio system, in addition to an amplifier, a turntable and a preamp. “My idiot’s errand proper now’s making an attempt to get the setup in my home to sound precisely the way it sounds in Devon’s room, which is like making an attempt to recreate the very best toys from Santa’s workshop,” Mr. Ronson stated.
It’s audible conversions like these which have made Mr. Turnbull one thing of a shaman for discerning speaker heads. His purchasers have included the designer Virgil Abloh (an Ojas setup is included within the posthumous retrospective of Mr. Abloh’s inventive life on the Brooklyn Museum); Don Was, the president of Blue Observe Information; the rapper Tyler, the Creator; and Ben Gorham, the founding father of Byredo (who collaborated with Mr. Turnbull on a speaker-inspired scent diffuser).
“If you first hear sound that sounds this pure and detailed, you begin to journey out for a second,” Mr. Turnbull stated on a latest Thursday afternoon, from his kitchen overlooking his minimalist Japanese backyard. He was wearing an oversize white T-shirt by Supreme, which was becoming as a result of Ojas audio system cling from the ceilings of Supreme’s 14 shops worldwide.
“Supreme and I share an aesthetic of utility grade supplies utilized in a really carefully-considered method,” he stated.
Ojas audio system can be heard at Public Information, an audiophile bar close to the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn; Lisson Gallery in Chelsea, the place a holistic “listening room” crafted by Mr. Turnbull is open to the general public by means of Aug. 5; and, within the fall, USM Modular Furnishings’s showroom in Manhattan.
Excessive constancy comes at a worth. Ojas gear is made to order, ranging from $2,000 for a D. I.Y speaker kit to $46,000 or extra for particular commissions, together with an 11-foot-tall speaker that was put in at Prada’s flagship retailer in Manhattan for a party in Might, earlier than it was shipped to a nightclub in Mexico.
Every speaker takes Mr. Turnbull a minimum of 4 months to make in a warehouse within the Brooklyn Navy Yard. A 30-inch woofer might take years to trace down from an audio supplier in Tokyo. Classic Altec Lansing components are sourced from an outdated producer in Oklahoma Metropolis.
In dialog, Mr. Turnbull typically describes sound in metaphysical phrases, nevertheless it’s not a gimmick. When he was 11, his household relocated from Lengthy Island to a transcendental meditation heart in Fairfield, Iowa.
At 19, he moved to Seattle, the place he started DJing beneath the pseudonym, “Ojas” (a Sanskrit time period roughly translating to “life vitality”), and enrolled in an audio-engineering program on the Artwork Institute of Seattle. Via a mutual pal, he met Alex Calderwood, a founding father of the Ace Resort chain, who, years later, would turn out to be the primary particular person to fee a sound system from him.
He moved to Brooklyn in 1999 and enrolled on the New College, the place he started experimenting with trend and made T-shirts embroidered with felt appliqué that had been bought at Alife, an underground streetwear store on the Decrease East Aspect.
In 2003, Mr. Turnbull co-founded Nom de Guerre, a males’s put on line with a word-of-mouth boutique in NoHo that, together with Supreme, helped set the stage for the rise of streetwear that now pervades trend.
When Nom de Guerre folded in 2010 (“Males’s put on again then simply wasn’t being profitable,” he stated), Mr. Turnbull fell right into a inventive funk. “I misplaced any curiosity in streetwear,” he stated. “I simply wore Ralph Lauren undershirts and Levi 501s daily for 10 years.”
Unbeknown to him on the time, the model’s militant skate-rat aesthetic left an impression on a brand new era of tastemakers, together with Mr. Abloh, who cited the model as an affect on Off-White. The style-reseller web site Grailed has referred to as Nom de Guerre “essentially the most influential streetwear model you could have by no means heard of.”
After Mr. Abloh tagged Mr. Turnbull on Instagram, the pair grew to become associates and sounding boards on matters as diverse as graphics for Louis-Vuitton T-shirts and vinyl suggestions.
“Virgil was up on me when only a few folks had been up on me,” he stated.
Final November, Mr. Abloh and Mr. Turnbull collaborated on a speaker system simply earlier than Mr. Abloh died. Mr. Turnbull stated he nonetheless sometimes “chokes up” when he thinks about his pal, and all of the audio and trend initiatives that they had talked about.
“Virgil intuitively understood the communicative energy of music,” he stated. “Listening to data collectively was a sacred act.”